Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler is a simple, homey dessert, which is wonderfully satisfying and in season now--so make this today! Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
While rhubarb is a harbinger of spring in the garden, It stays for a few months before the weather gets too hot. Fortunately this timing overlaps with the berry season, so that we can enjoy the combo of rhubarb with strawberries in desserts and preserves.
Luscious ripe berries are wonderful eaten straight from the garden, on cereal, shortcakes, with yogurt, however, they are darned good in cobbler and pie!
Rhubarb stalks can be chopped, cooked briefly and combined with berries to make delicious desserts from muffins to pies and crisps; it also makes a wonderful conserve.
Although not absolutely necessary to the cobbler, sweet woodruff is the perfect springtime herb to add for flavoring. When heated or infused, this shade-loving groundcover gives off the scent of new-mown hay and vanilla.
Stew the fresh chopped rhubarb with a little sugar and some sweet woodruff to soften it a bit, then add the strawberries.
Once the rhubarb has been stewed a bit and the strawberries are added, the fruit is transferred to a baking dish. Then a slightly-sweetened, soft biscuit dough is dropped onto the fruit to make a cobbler.
Just-from-the-oven baked cobbler can be served hot, warm or at room temperature. It is delightful on its own, and spectacular with vanilla ice cream, fresh whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
12 sprigs sweet woodruff about 3 inches long
4 cups rhubarb, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cups fresh strawberries, halved; or if large, slice them
About 1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-2/3 cups unbleached flour
2-1/2 tablespoons vanilla sugar, or plain sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup milk
Vanilla sugar for sprinkling
Sweet woodruff doesn’t have much of an aroma when picked fresh, but when it is dried, infused, or cooked it imparts a homey flavor, rather like adding a taste of vanilla and a scent of fresh mown hay. If you don’t have sweet woodruff, lemon balm or orange mint are both tasty alternatives. The vanilla-scented sugar adds a lovely dimension—if you don’t have any—just use regular sugar. Though be sure to make some to use in the future. Serve this dessert warm or at room temperature, just as it is, or with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream, garnished with a sprig of sweet woodruff.
Holding the woodruff sprigs, gently slide your thumb and forefinger together down the stem to remove the whorls of leaves; discard the stems. Place rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch, and sweet woodruff leaves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, stir, and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the berries, stir and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Let the mixture cool a bit and remove the woodruff sprigs.
Preheat oven to 400ºF and butter a 2-1/2-quart baking dish. Transfer the fruit to the buttered dish.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is in pea-sized lumps. Add the milk to the flour mixture and mix with a fork until just blended.
Drop the dough from large spoonfuls over the fruit. Sprinkle the dough lightly with vanilla sugar. Bake the cobbler for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the dough is turning golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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